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Department 2

Judaic Studies


The future of the German-Jewish past is, in a word, digital, and not only in the sense of digital humanities or digital history. Future generations of scholars, students, and the general public will engage with the past online in the same ways—and for many of the same reasons—that they engage with everything else. There needs to be something redeeming, enjoyable, or at least memorable about studying history for people to feel that it is worthwhile. For many, the act of learning about the past serves as a kind of virtual travel, even an escape, to another time and place. Learning about German-Jewish history becomes possible on a regular basis when it is easily accessible through the newest media on computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Perusing a digital history project about the 1930s or reading posts on Twitter and Instagram does not take as much time, nor require the same level of commitment, as sitting down to read a history book. Watching a hit television show about the 1920s feels just educational enough to mitigate the guilt of partaking in a “guilty pleasure, ” yet not so stiflingly academic as to prevent it from being fun. Twitter is the new Times. Netflix is the new newsreel—and noir. We must begin to harness the potential of these platforms to cultivate opportunities to teach and learn about the German-Jewish past. In this essay, I explore three ways of establishing a connection to the past in digital forms suited to the twenty-first century: experiential learning in a traditional college classroom setting, social media activism, and streaming television shows. [excerpt]

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